BYE, BYE, BERNIE
When one AFC coach heard Monday's stunning news from Cleveland—that the Browns had waived quarterback Bernie Kosar—he said, "I thought he was missing some passes this year that he should have hit. And he's slow. But I've got great regard for him, and in the right system, I think he can still be successful."
Cleveland owner Art Modell broke the news to the 29-year-old Kosar on Monday morning in what must have been an emotional meeting. Kosar once told Modell that Modell was like a surrogate father to him. Still, league observers had seen the split coming for some time. "This wasn't about ability and the ability to lead a team," says Marc Trestman, who was Kosar's quarterback coach at the University of Miami and with the Browns in 1988-89 and remains a friend. "This was about a personality conflict." Indeed, Kosar and Cleveland coach Bill Belichick, who took over the Browns three years ago, were not getting along, disagreeing about how the offense should be run.
Still, there was a growing consensus within the organization that Kosar, with his lack of speed and his bad elbow, was no longer effective. Belichick had planned to replace Kosar with Todd Philcox for this Sunday's game in Seattle, and, say the sources, Belichick didn't think it would be fair to the team or to Kosar to have him back up such an inexperienced kid. Philcox, four years out of Syracuse, has thrown all of 37 passes in the NFL.
Modell will be reviled by fans for releasing the hometown hero at the apparent behest of Belichick, the coach with an 18-22 record. During the Browns' 28-23 win over Pittsburgh three weeks ago, when Kosar was benched for Vinny Testaverde (who was subsequently injured), a sign fluttering in the Dawg Pound played off the initials of NBC, the network televising the game. It read NOBODY BENCHES COSAR.
BILLS, BILLS, BILLS
From coast to coast, the cry is heard: Oh, no, not the Bills; not again. You're probably saying it right now.
Says Mike Francesa of New York City's all-sports radio station, WFAN, "Without question, there's a cringe factor when you bring up the Bills." Yet here they are, 7-1 after a difficult, 13-10 overtime win in New England and the favorite to have the home field advantage through the AFC playoffs. The Bills are no lock to make an unprecedented fourth straight Super Bowl appearance after three losses there, but who else in the AFC really scares you?
The Bills love this us-against-the-world thing. "It's uniting us," says Pro Bowl special-teamer Steve Tasker. "Somebody sent us T-shirts that typify what our attitude is. They say LET'S PISS 'EM ALL OFF AND GO FOR FOUR. It's Our motto."
On Sunday the Bills trailed 10-0 after playing 47 minutes of horrendous offense. Running back Thurman Thomas was suffering from bruised ribs that made breathing difficult, and Jim Kelly was having no success at moving the ball. The Bills had no business even being in this game, but they did something that champions, and teams hoping to be champions, must do: They won on the road despite playing poorly for most of the game.